Do I look like someone who would not only agree to camp solo on a deserted island, but also be capable of even doing it? Joe from Lake Powell Paddleboards apparently thought so.
Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t doubting myself, but I was beyond flattered when I went to go rent a paddleboard for the day, and before I could ask where to go, Joe starts telling me about how I should camp on Antelope Island if I’m “Able to paddle my camping gear across the channel to it”…as if he had already assumed I could.
To be completely honest, I wasn’t entirely sure I’d be able to paddle all of my gear without it falling in the water, not to mention even be able to lift the board off of the roof rack he had someone load onto my elderly Mustang.
OH, and the tiny little fact that initially my idea of “primitive camping” was using the paid-campgrounds that give you a designated camp site and offer clean-ish restrooms, drinking water, and a man-made fire pit.
But I’m pretty sure that Joe’s immediate non-assessment of my appearance (I was wearing a cute romper, sandals, and had my make-up and aviators on), or judgement of the fact that, I don’t know, I’m a 107-pound GIRL traveling alone, was what amped me up and convinced me that I actually was capable of camping alone…on a deserted island…and paddleboarding to get there.
Joe’s instructions and suggestions seemed do-able (and awesome), so I took the map he had printed out for me depicting where to park, camp, and where to paddleboard through a canyon, and drove off awkwardly as the board balanced and bobbed on my roof.
What started as a Google search for “fun activities to do on Lake Powell”, and what I thought was simply going to be renting a paddleboard for a few hours from Lake Powell Paddleboards in a tiny town called Page, ended up being one of the most surprising, curious, riveting, and fulfilling experiences I’ve ever had!
Here’s how it went down:
I’m what you would call, an “ambitious adventurer”. I don’t like to sit around on a beach and tan, or relax on the front of a boat, I like to do things that actually involve me having to do something, like paddleboarding. Before my roadtrip, I did a search on what activities there were to do on Lake Powell, and easily enough, I thus found Lake Powell Paddleboards.
I emailed the co-owner, Jordan, in advance to secure a spot, although you can easily call the shop to make a rez, which I’d recommend since Lake Powell is a pretty popular recreation area. Anyway, the shop is in Page, which is only about twenty minutes or so to either of the places they recommend going – Antelope Bend or Lone Rock Island.
It costs $40 to rent a paddleboard for 5 hours, or $60 for 24 hours, which means you can use it to camp on the island like I did. They also offer lessons and tours in case you don’t want to venture off on your own like my over-ambitious-ass.
Originally, I was going to camp at Lone Rock Campground because it was one of the places with “clean-ish bathrooms”, but Joe highly recommended Antelope Island, since it’s a rare experience that not many people do. It’s located near Lower Antelope Canyon, which you can easily plug into your GPS, but in case you don’t get service,
Here are the directions:
From Lake Powell Paddleboards, turn left on Lake Powell Blvd, and drive for about 1 mile, then turn left on Coppermine Rd. Keep driving until you get to Hwy 98, then turn left (east). You’ll see a massive, terrifying-looking factory amidst the scenic desert, and a road before it on the left that takes you to “Antelope Point Marina”. (Note: the first parking lot looking thing on this road is where you can do the Lower Antelope Canyon tour for about $24).
Once you’re on this road, keep driving (about 4 miles) until you get to a toll booth-looking thing. Since Lake Powell and Antelope Island is in Glen Canyon National Park, you have to pay a National Park fee of $20 just to enter, but it’s valid for 7 days in case you want to go back in after you camp.
After you pay, drive straight back (do NOT turn right into the Marina) and you’ll see the boat launch ramp in front of you, and the big parking lot to the left. That’s where you’ll park AFTER you drop the board and all your gear off at the end of the boat ramp.
You can probably imagine how much fun I had trying to figure out how to use a backpacking-backpack I borrowed from a friend, that I had never used before, to pack all of my camping gear. After discovering every strap, zipper, and secret compartment, I was able to fit my clothes, toiletries, random stuff, and laptop (which I put in a vacuum-sealed bag) inside, plus attach my actual tent, princess tent, yoga mat (not that I do yoga), and sleeping bag to the outside. I HIGHLY recommend using something like this if possible, otherwise it’s really easy for stuff to just roll off.
There are bungie chords on the front and back of the paddleboard to strap your stuff down, but you want to try to have as few “pieces” as possible. You should also make sure you actually have everything before you leave town…I had to search through 3 stores to find a lantern before I found a massive flashlight and head-strap light at the dollar store near the paddleboard shop.
Here are my suggestions for what to bring:
For a complete list see my Camping Gear Guide for Beginners post.
– Sleeping bag
– Flashlight, lantern, and “head-strap light” (it looks stupid, but works)
– Portable phone chargers
– Waterproof bag/case for your phone (you can buy one at the shop)
– BABY WIPES or whatever you want to call them
– Bug spray
– First aid kit (I had to constantly tape a bandaid to a gash under my big toe)
– Plastic bags for trash (including what you wipe your ass with)
– Bug spray
– A knife (or less aggressive weapon)
– A Camera (I use a GoPro)
Some other things you can get from the grocery store:
– Firewood, fire starter, and flame thrower if you want to make a fire
– FOOD – I made tuna salad 😀
– 1 gallon+ of water per person
– Wine (it’ll make you feel a lot braver once the bats start to come out)
Oh, and I also recommend learning how to put your tent together before paddling all the way out there and wasting 30 minutes like I did trying to figure it out.
Anyway. Bundle all of your gear together as tightly as possible, and use the bungie chords and any extra straps to secure everything onto the board.
**The board should already be partially in the water with the front facing forward…you DO NOT want to have to push it very far with all of your stuff on it because it will probably tip over, and you will cry.
Once you have all of your gear on the paddleboard, attach the leash to your ankle, make sure you have the paddle and life vest on board, and carefully lift the back end to get the bottom fin out of the sand, and push the board forward so that it glides into the water. If you go all the way to the right of the boat ramp, there’s a sandier area that makes it a lot easier.
Once the board is fully in the water and the fin is no longer touching the bottom, carefully step on, and voila! You’re ready to go!
If there are a lot of boats making waves or wind, you can kneel down or sit on your heels to paddle, so it’s steadier, but try to leave when it seems as calm as possible.
Start paddling either straight out where you’re supposed to go, or take the short cut to the left like I did, then start paddling straight across for an area on the shore across the lake that looks like prime camping real estate.
I paddled towards a cool looking sandstone rock formation a little further to the left that looked like it would make a good protective/privacy wall, and carefully used my paddle to stop the board before it aggressively hit the shore and made me off-balanced. Anything from the area directly across the boat ramp, left until the rocky area where you don’t want to camp anyway, is open game for a camp site.
As fore-mentioned…I realized I had other people help me set up my seemingly-simple-to-set-up tent the previous 3 times I used it, so of course doing it on my own was a pain in the ass. It required a minimum of two people (makes sense since it’s a 2-3 person tent) to evenly pull all four legs out, which resulted in a really awkward half hour of me struggling to do it on my own…in a bikini. (I ended up flipping it upside down and pulling all the legs out).
ANYWAY. The first thing you should do is set up your tent and camping area, just in case it starts to get dark if you decide to go paddleboarding. Make sure you have your flashlights and whatnot ready, as well as your fire pit.
How to Make a Fire:
I kind of just created my own fire pit although I did see a couple left behind from previous campers. I just put chunks of the sandstone in a little circle near the big sandstone rock and made sure nothing was close enough to it to catch on fire. You can do that, or use one you find, but I’m just gunna throw it out there that when I went to move a rock from an old fire pit, there was a ton of spiders underneath it.
You should definitely buy the firewood and a fire-starter log from the Safeway in Page and bring it out there, otherwise you’re going to be collecting twigs for a really long time. You’ll probably need to collect some dried twigs and stuff anyway to help get the fire started…which I learned after 10 minutes of trying to light the stupid “fire-starter log”.
Do yourself a favor and don’t bring anything that requires being refrigerated or cooked. Yes, I know, the thought of cooking your dinner over a campfire sounds like a novel idea, but there’s a good chance you’ll end up either A) Burning yourself, B) Burning the food, or C) Spilling it and starving to death.
Think of what you’d make at home that requires zero effort…like tuna, or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches…or a bunch of protein bars… Also don’t forget something for the morning…Cliff Bars and powdered “fruit smoothie” mix were my hangry-savers.
I brought a little Styrofoam cooler to keep my food in and, more importantly, my wine in, and the ice lasted for quite a while. Just don’t forget to bring a can and wine opener, and to put your food and trash FAR AWAY from your tent!
You know that saying, “Does a bear shit in the woods?”? Well…there are no woods on this island, and you are not a bear. Luckily, you’re on a lake-beach, so if you have to pee, you can just go in the water…but if it’s dark out or you have to go number two (girls exempt, girls don’t poop), you might want to dig a whole in the sand/dirt, go, then cover it up.
If you use baby wipes or toilet paper, make sure you put it in a bag to throw away back at the boat ramp…it’s seriously not cool to A) litter and B) leave your shit rag for someone else to stumble upon.
“Showering” will pretty much consist of rinsing off in the water or wiping yourself down with baby wipes. If you think you’ll absolutely HAVE to “wash” your hair, use a natural product like Apple Cider Vinegar (I use it, it works) so you don’t pollute the pretty water with the toxic crap that’s in most soaps and shampoos.
If you’re into the whole relaxing thing, good for you, go lay on the shore and close your eyes or something. If you have ADD and a never-ending curiosity about everything, put on those closed-toed shoes and start wandering around the island. Although I was hoping to find some sort of treasure, I only ended up finding some extra firewood, a sand-bucket, and some epic views that made me feel like a total Survivor-badass.
After I explored, I attempted swimming since I was sweaty and disgusting, but the freaking gash hole on the bottom of my toe kept getting sucked into the wet sand, and freaking me out. I dried off and decided to create my own cooking show using my GoPro, but chopping an onion and scallions with a plastic knife, then mixing it with smelly tuna and mayo on a paper plate wasn’t nearly as glamorous as I intended.
After eating, I moved on to the wine, which made things A LOT more interesting. Mostly because that was around the time when the sun was setting and it was time to build the fire. The fire probably would have been cooler if I had gotten the S’more building kit at the Safeway, but at least it still smelt good and deterred the numerous bats that started to dart around my campsite.
When it finally got super dark and scary, I allowed myself to use my laptop, knowing that I’d have about three full hours until the battery died. It only took about one hour for me to start getting slightly terrified of the strange noises and pitch blackness of the water and surrounding area, which resulted in me locking myself in my tent and continuing blogging from in there.
If you get to this point, congratulations! You made it through the night! I was personally extremely ecstatic when I finally unzipped my tent and the sun was coming out…mostly because I had been laying awake since 3am, anticipating the next blow of wind that rumbled every side of my not-fully-put-together tent.
I brushed my teeth using water from my water bottle, then assessed the numerous little animal foot prints that were all around my tent….aka…it wasn’t just the wind.
I wanted to explore the canyon bend that Joe from Lake Powell Paddleboards told me to paddle to, and knew I had to do it before 2pm when the winds pick up, so I packed everything up, loaded it back onto my board, and paddled it back to the boat ramp to load it into my car.
(4 hours, 6 miles roundtrip, start early!)
THIS was awesome. Joe recommended it as well, and was super excited about it, so I knew it was going to be awesome before I even got there. You essentially will paddleboard through tall canyon walls that bend and wind for about 2 miles. The total trip to the end and back from the boat ramp is 6 miles…just to warn you.
Joe also said to bring shoes because at the very end, it starts to get narrower and narrower, and then there’s thick mud that eventually turns into land that you can get off and walk on, climb a ladder up the canyon wall, and go see a secret slot canyon that looks like Lower Antelope Canyon.
I was all gung-ho about doing it, and even kept going once I started getting to the muck, and paddled all the way back until finally my board couldn’t push through any more of the horse-shit-mud-bergs.
I won’t lie, I was fairly terrified of this muck. It looked like something was either going to emerge from under it and attack me, or like I’d get stuck in it and drown if I fell in. I have no idea what the hell I would have done if I fell in that shit, which is why I ended up turning around.
The views were enough for me though, and I got a completely different look at them on the way back. I left around 9am, not because I’m an ambitious early riser, but because I was up anyway from camping, and knew the water would be calmer since there weren’t many boaters out yet.
Further into the afternoon it not only gets hotter, but the waters get choppier due to passing boats (be prepared to have your photo taken by tons of tourists), and winds. I wouldn’t recommend trying to paddle when the winds pick up in the afternoon around 2-3pm.
SO there you have it! Everything you need to know to camp on Antelope Island, and explore Antelope Creek! If you end up making the journey, be sure to say hi to Joe and Jordan for me at Lake Powell Paddleboards!
And now, for your entertainment, the video of me camping alone on Antelope Island…